It was finally in the winter of 2008 that I was able to realize my dreams of traveling to the Argentine Patagonia region to fly fish for brown and rainbow trout. My research on this majestic region practically compelled me to choose Rio Hermoso Hotel, an exquisite boutique property tucked smack dab in the heart of environmental and activity-based Patagonia. It was named for the trophy trout stream that runs through its lush rear lawn and forests. In fact, on my last day in Rio Hermoso Hotel, I was to take my biggest brown trout within sight of my balcony!
It's important to understand that Patagonia is a year-round trip and vacation paradise. Its seasons are opposite the northern Hemisphere so while South Florida endures the baking of summer, Rio Hermoso's environs offer the full gamut of winter sports. Conversely, I was happy to be leaving the cold fronts and holiday madness that cascaded over manic Miami to head for green mountains, valleys, gurgling streams and rushing rivers that held colorful trout stretching their muscles in summer's unfolding warmth.
I finalized the itinerary for my wife and myself with Giselle Kaplan, Rio Hermosos' delightful and efficient general manager. We would fly from Miami to Ezezia International Airport outside Buenos Aires and then take a transfer service to Jorge Newbery Domestic Airport right in the city. Next, we'd take the flight from Buenos Aires to Bariloche (San Carlos De Bariloche), where we would be picked up by Giselle for the three-hour drive to Rio Hermoso. Giselle assured us that the transfer ride would offer splendid sights and vistas and it would evolve that her promises were vastly understated.
When we actually arrived, our transfer ride took us through a magnificent mountain, lake and stream paradise topped off by a hotel that was stunning in it's' design and rooms in classic five-star rating.
Once tucked in at Rio Hermoso, Giselle confirmed that our trip would consist of three guided fishing days; one guided canoeing day' and one day of play in nearby San Martin de los Andes, a town that has all the beauty, restaurants, activities and lakeside ambience that any traveler could yearn for. We would quickly see that there is no need to go "sightseeing" because wherever you go, "there it is."
Alejandro and the Fishing Overview
Our guide, Alejandro (nickname: Ale — pronounced AH-lay) Buchanan, came to the hotel to greet and brief us the next morning. After speaking with him even a short time, it soon became clear that Giselle had chosen the perfect guide for us. He was well bred, competent in his fly-fishing knowledge and patient as a teacher: he soon had my wife double-hauling and roll casting adequately. He told us that most of the casts needed were easy but well-placed presentations with the exception of the Rio Malleo (ma-Jay-o) where recent 30 mph winds pushing through the desert arroyos would challenge us.
As to specific fishing techniques, we'd often be fishing to riffled water as well as eddies behind rocks with flies and strike indicators. Alejandro told us we'd also be fishing pools holding some large brown trout with a sinking line and streamer that were stripped in almost bonefish-style.
Alejandro said the recent reports on all local streams indicated good water levels and trout feeding periods at different times of the day depending on the stream or river.
Rio Hermoso: Day 1
It was a stunning first day in these exotic climes. I released about six small rainbows quite close to the hotel on 5-pound tackle using dry fly/indicator rigs. I also let a brown trout around 4 pounds get the best of me by spitting my barbless fly before I was able to come tight. Ale caught a similar-sized fish but lost it while grabbing the fish for photos — he will be sure to bring a net tomorrow.
We stopped fishing when a chilly squall blew through the valley at 6 p.m. and sent us packing to the hotel 50 yards away for some hot coffee, a good bottle of Malbec and a few Argentine pastelitos before dinner.
Rio Malleo: Day 2
Alejandro took us way north of San Martin de los Andes into the very famous Rio Malleo for some dry fly fishing. The habitat was more like the American desert west rather than the alpine heaven forests surrounding Bariloche.
We entered an Indian reservation and observed flocks of sheep grazing on steep mountainsides. As our SUV eased its way along the road, the indigenous shepherds would look up with the kind of dignified curiosity that showed a long history of life along this stretch of planet Earth.
As Ale predicted, the winds were blowing 30 mph into the arroyos we were fishing in, which made placing accurate casts to sighted fish quite difficult. Despite that, we managed to release two large rainbows and one smaller fish in the Argentine springtime. The high winds combined with subtle takes was challenging for anglers like myself far more used to the naked aggression of shallow water marine gamefish.
The wind got colder in the afternoon, which really shut things down.
It was time to picnic and Ale broke open Rio Hemoso's box lunches of smoked red deer, smoked wild boar, broiled trout and salmon, tomatoes, native cherries and gruyere cheese with a whole loaf of fresh bread.
When we returned to the hotel later in the day, the wind flattened out and the setting sun gave off an ambient heat. While we all enjoyed a fine glass of Malbec, a small hatch went off in the river behind us. Soon, the trout started rising in the lengthening shadows of dusk. We looked at each in a way that said, "duly noted."
Rio Hermoso: Day 3
We started our fishing after lunch. By that time the river would have shrugged off its' early morning chill and light fog. Ale and I worked some undercut banks as well as some eddies and came up with some small rainbows.
By mid-afternoon, Ale changed my tackle to a sinking line and a streamer. He asked me to hike back towards the hotel to a bank clearing that gave access to a deep pool. He instructed me to place the fly above the pool and strip it as it drifted and sank into the pool.
On the third strip, I felt sudden resistance and struck back in a mild modified double-haul style. The rod doubled over and line flew out. I was able to clear the line and got the fish on the reel. It made a fast 40-foot run downstream and then came back to the head of the pool. Ale was screaming for me to go easy and that it surely was a big brown trout. After five minutes of gentle battle, I had a big brown trout alongside the river's edge and Ale netted it. We got some pictures of the fish, which are moments that will stay in my memory — but no less than Giselle, Ale or Rio Hermoso will be there too!
|Rio Hermoso Hotel de Montana |
Ruta 63, km 67, Pje.
Rio Hermoso, Parque Nacional Lanin
Neuquen, Patagonia Argentina